Clint LaFlam is Teacher of the Year

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee High School band director Clint LaFlam was named Okeechobee Schools Teacher of the Year at the Night of the Stars Banquet held Friday at the KOA Convention Center.

Clint LaFlam said it was a tremendous honor to be named Okeechobee Schools Teacher of the Year.

Clint LaFlam said it was a tremendous honor to be named Okeechobee Schools Teacher of the Year.

Linda Holmes of the district office was named School Related Employee of the Year. Jane Griffin, science teacher at Osceola Middle School, won the Okeechobee Schools first year teacher award.

Mr. LaFlam said it was truly an honor to represent Okeechobee Schools and noted the high school band rivals any in the state.

“This is my home, this is where I was born and raised. I give everything I have to the band program at OHS,” he said.

Mr. LaFlam said his goal has been to build the band into a staple in this community. He said he wants to make sure all his students understand and take pride in what they are part of and where they come from.

He thanked his wife Courtney for her tremendous support of his career and the music program.

“She is the backbone of this program. Without her, nothing would get done. She truly cares about the kids,” he said.

Linda Thomas of Mid Florida Credit Union presents a $5,000 check to Mr. LaFlam at Friday’s banquet. Photo by Charles Murphy.

Linda Thomas of Mid Florida Credit Union presents a $5,000 check to Mr. LaFlam at Friday’s banquet. Photo by Charles Murphy.

Mr. LaFlam attend Florida Southern University in Lakeland and originally thought he would become a professional musician. His college professor led him to consider being a band director and after an internship in Lakeland, he knew that would be his career path.

“I knew it would be something I’d do for the rest of my life and I’m glad to be doing it in Okeechobee,” he added.

He noted that several of his students have studied music in college. He praised the kids in Okeechobee for their work ethic and for how appreciative they are to receive an education.

“I tell them you must fall in love with the profession. It can’t be a job. Music must be the love of your life if you’re going to be successful in that field,” he said.

Mr. LaFlam said he appreciated the support of the community and also thanked his co-workers at OHS.

Amy Daniel of Mid Florida Credit Union presents a check for $2,500 to an obviously pleased Linda Holmes on Friday.

Amy Daniel of Mid Florida Credit Union presents a check for $2,500 to an obviously pleased Linda Holmes on Friday.

Other teachers nominated this year included Angie Snyder of Central Elementary, Reed Ellinger of Everglades, Lynn Thomas of North, Jessica Lowe of Seminole, Josh Vanwormer of South, Albert Whiteside of the Okeechobee Achievement Academy, Emonta Leonard of Osceola Middle, Emma Kenty of Yearling Middle, Andy Newsome of the Freshman Campus, and Debbie Johnson of the Exceptional Student Education program.

Mrs. Holmes has worked four years for the school district administrative offices. She had been an assistant manager at a bank. She is insurance administrator and bookkeeper for the finance department.

Superintendent Ken Kenworthy presents the School Related Employee of the Year to Linda Holmes Friday.

Superintendent Ken Kenworthy presents the School Related Employee of the Year to Linda Holmes Friday.

Holmes said the award was wonderful and unexpected.

“I just do my job. It is really nice to be rewarded and appreciated. I’m not anything special. I just do what I’m supposed to do,” she said.

She said she appreciated her co-workers and that the district office is a great place to work.

Mrs. Holmes also is a product of Okeechobee schools. She thanked her husband and family and said Okeechobee is a great town to live and work in.

Other employees nominated this year included Amanda Lipscomb of Central Elementary, Jessica Lane of Everglades, Tabitha Freeman of North, Selica Mungaray of Seminole, Tammy Higgins of South, Jennifer Hart of OAA, Debbie Hill of Osceola Middle, Elia Garcia of Yearling Middle, Nicky Faircloth of the Freshman Campus, Tracy Wilderman of OHS, Misty Raulerson of the Transportation Department and Carl Maxwell of the Maintenance Department.

Mrs. Griffin said she was excited, thankful and very surprised by the first year teacher award. Some 35 new teachers joined the district and eight were considered for the award this year. She has a background in animal science and was raised in Oregon. She also studied at the University of Florida and had been working with her husband in the ranching industry when she decided to give teaching a try.

(L-R)  Osceola Middle School Principal Sean Downing and First Year Teacher winner Jane Griffin.

(L-R) Osceola Middle School Principal Sean Downing and First Year Teacher winner Jane Griffin.

“I love the school and my students. The administration here is beyond amazing and helpful. I have made some wonderful friends in Okeechobee,” she noted.

Mrs. Griffin said she expects a wonderful response from her class when they learn she won this award.

“All my kids were excited when they announced I was the school winner,” she said. “I have no regrets about working in education and I’m just really grateful for this award.”

The other teachers nominated included Emily Morris of Everglades, Jeannette Smet of North, Lucina Anselmo of Seminole, Nicole Swanson of South, Luke Borcherding of Yearling Middle, and Clint Thompson of OHS.

The Gilbert Family of Companies provided $500 gifts to all the employees nominated by their schools this year.

Mid Florida Credit Union presented $2,500 to the School Related Employee of the Year and $5,000 to the Teacher of the Year.

The banquet also included video taped messages from several former OHS graduates who have moved on to successful careers. They included Justin Merriman who is a staff sergeant stationed in the U.S. Airforce in Korea, and Kelly Haigh, maiden name Ard, who is an architect in Boston.

The Okeechobee Art Students created center pieces used on the table and the National Honor Society served as hosts and hostesses. The theme this year was “Stay Gold” from the novel, “The Outsiders.”

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